Thursday, February 16, 2012

War Crimes: UN tribunal sets mid-May date for start of genocide trial of Ratko Mladic

UN - The United Nations tribunal set up in the wake of the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s announced today that the trial of Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military chief who is facing charges of genocide and other war crimes, will begin on 14 May.

In a statement the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which is based in The Hague, said it had changed the start date – the trial was previously expected to begin in late March – to allow both sides to complete their pre-trial preparations.

Prosecutors told the court last week that they expect to call more than 400 witnesses and present nearly 28,000 exhibits during the trial, and they anticipate they will need about 200 hours of tribunal time to present their case.

Mr. Mladic, 68, is accused of carrying out genocide and other crimes against Bosnian Muslims, Bosnian Croats and other non-Serb civilians between May 1992 and late 1995.

The indictment against him alleges that Mr. Mladic led forces that conducted the notorious massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys in the supposed safe haven of Srebrenica in July 1995 in the most notorious episode of the war.

The former army chief also faces charges for the shelling and sniping of Sarajevo during the protracted wartime siege of the city.

In addition, the indictment lists more than 70 incidents of murder in 20 municipalities across Bosnia and Herzegovina, and accuses forces under Mr. Mladic’s supervision of torturing, mistreating and physically, psychologically and sexually abusing civilians confined to detention centres.

Defence lawyers had argued that the health of Mr. Mladic be considered in determining the trial’s schedule, but ICTY judges said they were not convinced that his health condition required modification of the schedule.

Mr. Mladic was arrested in May last year in Serbia after evading capture for 16 years. In July, at a court hearing, a plea of not guilty was entered on his behalf.